“This movie isn’t nearly as disastrous as you’d believe, judging by all the GamerGate hate labeled onto it.”
I physically cringed at my work desk as I listened to Stuart (in L.A.) of the Now Playing Podcast utter these words. He was discussing the recent Fantastic Four reboot and the unsavory response it has gotten from critics and viewers alike.
Anyone involved in the enthusiast gaming culture might jump to conclusions. They might believe those wielding the GamerGate hashtag to find Fantastic Four to be social justice propaganda, or somehow be involved in allegedly unethical journalistic practices. To Stuart, however, a film fan with little interest in the video gaming scene, it means something completely different.
Troll, hate mob, vicious social media behavior, negativity. That’s all the term GamerGate means to someone outside of the gaming community.
My relationship status with GamerGate is currently set to “It’s Complicated”. The most simple summary I can give the “group” is that it is a mob. Not a hate mob, or an unruly mob, or anything. It is simply a mob united under vaguely related sentiments. All it takes for a mob to transform into a riot, however, is a handful of assholes wielding baseball bats to start breaking windows and cracking windshields. At the top were personalities like Adam Baldwin and Christina H. Sommers to capitalize on and manipulate the movement for their own preferred ends. Figureheads no better than those GamerGate was supposedly fighting to crush. Independent media outlets latched on, exclaiming that they were different from the mainstream games press.
I, as usual, found myself in the middle. Games journalism, and American journalism as a whole, is horrible. The bias flies like monkeys flingin’ feces in a fight for dominance at the zoo. The masses tweet, retweet and share “insightful” articles that are little more than confirmation bias for pre-established perspectives and beliefs. It’s all a sham and built around profitability through controversy.
Well, that or self-confirming feel good tripe.
I agree with GamerGate as far as believing games journalism and criticism to be intellectually dishonest and bankrupt. This feeling is, naturally, an unpopular one, because it means I do not hold esteem for many experienced writers out there. I find very few worth looking up to. The only obstacle keeping me from being viewed as a peer is the fact that I am forced to write about games part-time rather than being privileged enough to get paid for it.
That I do not politically fly left is no help, either.
Despite being against so much of games writing and journalism, I have never been able to hop over that fence and pin my chest with a “GamerGate” sticker. I can’t, because just as I feel the gaming press is intellectually dishonest, I also feel that there is some unchecked bias going on for many that claim to be about honesty and ethics. Zoe Quinn does not deserve to have her character assassinated, nor does Anita Sarkeesian. Yet there’s a group of malicious assholes, both total trolls and ideological zealots, that are watching every step these women take, seeking to try and discredit and criticize any statement that slips out of their mouth.
Now, these women should be challenged and criticized when necessary. However, the efforts being made are counter-productive. It may be controversial to say (to someone, somewhere, out there), but the harassment has only made Anita and Zoe stronger. Their positions, at the very least. Intentional or not, each of them has used these attacks as propaganda. “See how I suffer,” they cry, turning themselves into martyrs.
And it’s all a distraction. It has nothing to do with ethics in games journalism, it has nothing to do with better journalism at all, nor is it properly challenging their own criticisms of the games industry. It’s a completely different matter entirely, and yet the population that claims to be about ethical writing are committing idiotic attacks.
It is self-sabotage, and now the idiotic term (I mean, seriously, GamerGate? Are you fucking kidding me?!) is a simple shorthand for non-gamers to quickly describe a negative, hateful response to something on the Internet.
I do not write this piece for people that already hate GamerGate. They’ve made up their mind, and their reasons for wishing GamerGate to vanish are closed-minded and self-interested. Their concepts of “progress” are often fascist and a type of censorship. They are also so convinced that they’re enlightened and morally right, so self-righteous, that they will never understand that they literally wish to control how people think, or to completely crush a way of thinking simply because they disagree with it. In fact, if they are even reading this blog, it’s so they can attack and criticize me for it (fortunately for me, I’m nowhere near a personality large enough for that manner of people to truly care).
I write this for everyone in-between, and those would-be-rationals that are adhering to the hashtag. It is better to be individuals fighting for a similar ideal, making those arguments yourselves, than to try and adhere to a movement.
If you need an example of how self-defeating a simple label can be, just look at the term “Christian”. Those familiar with me know very well that I am a believer. I, however, hold no particular denomination, each having some small difference from another. It takes very little scrutiny to observe how each denomination interprets similar Biblical passages in different ways. Just look at the matter of Baptism, what counts as Baptism, and whether you need to be Baptized to enter the Kingdom of Heaven or not.
Once you unite under a specific name, once you try to define yourself a certain way, you open up the door for your ideas to be hijacked. GamerGate was hijacked before Adam Baldwin put a name to it. It was hijacked as early as the first image to appear referring to Zoe Quinn’s alleged sexual activities as “Five Guys Burgers and Fries” (and I will piss many off by confessing how amusing I find that title, despite giving no shits about who Zoe is or is not screwing).
I don’t know whether games journalism can be fixed. I want it to be, and I want to have a proactive part in it. I’d much rather try and influence the industry with pieces like my Let’s Talk Games Writing series, my rules of games criticism, or by simply putting out in-depth, analytical works on specific games. I’d like to be what I want to see in the industry.
Those of you that would label yourselves GamerGaters, I say you do the same. Read books on journalism, on what ethical news reporting means. Read sociology books and articles. Read materials beyond video games, get a greater view of the world, and then come together to discuss games from a much more educated perspective.
Be better than those the “professionals”. Be a better writer, be more educated, and walk with wisdom.
Unfortunately, also be prepared for it all to mean nothing. At the very least, however, you won’t be a part of a movement that is actively making it harder to challenge the status quo by making the status quo a victim.